If You’ve Just Been Prescribed Oxygen Therapy, These Tips Will Help Make Your Treatment a Success!
People with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and other respiratory conditions often receive a prescription for oxygen therapy (also called supplemental oxygen). That’s because COPD is a chronic lung disease that makes breathing more difficult by reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to your body.
Lesley Williams, Apria’s Market Clinical Trainer and a registered respiratory therapist, says, “When your body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs, it may be harder for you to perform everyday activities.”
But for some people, receiving a prescription for oxygen therapy can feel overwhelming—even intimidating.
This article is designed to help you better understand oxygen therapy—and reduce any fears you may have about it.
Oxygen Therapy Can Improve Your Overall Health
Although not a cure for COPD, oxygen therapy offers many advantages—it can:
- Decrease shortness of breath and breathlessness
- Boost energy levels and reduce fatigue
- Help you sleep better
- Improve your mood
- Increase your ability to concentrate
- Lower your risk of heart failure
Oxygen Therapy Requires a Prescription
Oxygen is considered a drug, so a doctor will give you a prescription.
The prescription will also include your appropriate oxygen flow rate, which is the amount of oxygen that is delivered each minute by the device you are using.
There Are 3 Types of Oxygen Therapy
Depending on your specific needs, your doctor will prescribe one of the following types of oxygen therapy. You should familiarize yourself with the type prescribed:
- Compressed oxygen stores oxygen in a metal tank as gas under pressure. An oxygen regulator controls the oxygen flow rate and shows how much oxygen remains.
- Liquid oxygen uses compressed, frozen oxygen. When released, it turns into gas that you breathe in. It is very cold, -2970 F, and can cause frostbite if not handled carefully.
- Oxygen concentrators draw air from your surroundings, separate and remove nitrogen and other gases, and deliver purified oxygen to breathe.
There Are Different Types of Oxygen Delivery Devices
Your doctor will prescribe the most appropriate type for you:
- Nasal cannula: a small tube with prongs inserted into your nostrils
- Facemask: covers your mouth and nose and is often used for people who can’t tolerate nasal cannulas
- Tracheotomy tube: a special tube surgically placed into your windpipe
Oxygen Needs to Be Safely Stored
Oxygen is safe, but it must be properly stored. Follow these simple tips:
- Store oxygen tanks in a well-ventilated space and an upright position
- Do not store oxygen tanks under your bed or in the trunk of your car
- Keep oxygen tubing under wraps—it can be a tripping hazard
- Store oxygen tanks near an exit so they’ll be easier to get on your way out in an emergency
- Beware of oxygen leaks. If you hear hissing from your container, open the windows and call your oxygen supplier immediately
- When you aren't using your oxygen, turn it off as an extra safety precaution
Practice Fire Safety
Even though oxygen isn’t flammable, it can cause other materials to ignite more easily and burn more rapidly—and can sometimes cause an explosion.
- When cooking with gas, never permit oxygen tanks in the kitchen
- Keep oxygen tanks at least 10 feet away from any heat source, including fireplaces, gas and wood-burning stoves, furnaces, and space heaters
- Steer clear of flammable materials like aerosol sprays and cleaning materials
- Make sure your home is smoke-free
- Post warning signs throughout your house that say “No Smoking,” ‘No Open Flames,” and “Oxygen In Use”
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy and learn how to use it
Clean and Replace Your Oxygen Therapy Equipment
Your doctor and oxygen supply company will provide instructions, including:
- Clean facemasks twice a week with warm, soapy water and replace every 2-4 weeks
- Clean your cannula once a week and replace every 2-4 weeks
- Replace tubing every 2 months
- If you use a humidifier, empty and wash it daily with soap and water to prevent the buildup of bacteria. And refill it with distilled—not tap—water
- If you use an oxygen concentrator, unplug and wipe it with a damp cloth daily. Clean the air filter weekly and replace as needed.
Keep Regular Medical Check-ups
It’s important to take care of yourself. That’s why you should have regularly scheduled medical exams with your doctor. Your doctor or respiratory specialist can also review your oxygen prescription and make any adjustments to your oxygen flow rate, if needed. If you feel your condition has changed in any way, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.
Check the oxygen regulator to keep track of how much oxygen is in the tank—and reorder more before you run out.
Always have extra oxygen therapy supplies—tanks, cannulas, tubing—in case of emergencies.
If you use an oxygen concentrator, which runs on electricity, have a portable oxygen tank as a backup in case there is a power outage.
Above All, Be Patient
It may take time to adjust to your oxygen therapy. And you may need to make some lifestyle changes. But be patient. The health benefits that oxygen therapy offers will be worth it.
Lesley adds, “Involve your family in your oxygen therapy. They’ll provide the support you need to help ensure that your therapy is a success. If you have questions, of course speak with your doctor.”
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2. Oxygen Therapy: How Can Oxygen Help Me? American Lung Association. https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-procedures-and-tests/oxygen-therapy/how-can-oxygen-help-me.
3. Leader, D. (Updated 2021, September 4). 5 Safety Tips for Using Supplemental Oxygen Therapy. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/oxygen-safety-tips-914804.
4. Mumm, EM. (2020, July 2). 7 Tips for Living Comfortably with Oxygen at Home. Temple Health. https://www.templehealth.org/about/blog/7-tips-living-with-oxygen-at-home.
5. (2018, February 19). The 12 things every home oxygen user should know. Lung Foundation Australia. https://lungfoundation.com.au/news/the-12-things-every-home-oxygen-user-should-know/.
6. (2022, March 9). Oxygen Therapy: Care Instruction. MyHealth.Alberta.ca Network. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/ conditions.aspx?hwid=ug5195.
7. Bottaro, A. (Updated 2021, November 13). When to Consider Oxygen Therapy for COPD. Verywell Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/oxygen-therapy-for-copd-5207025.
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